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April 20, 2014

What caused the death of the TV theme song?

by Jay Black, posted Jan 2nd 2008 4:23PM
I'm still up on the air about how hot Daphne was. Is it wrong that I'm still thinking about this years after the show went off the air?Eric Deggans, the TV and Media critic for the St. Petersburg Times has an interesting article up discussing the death of the TV theme song and also providing a list of his top-ten theme songs of all time.

Deggans points out the obvious -- that TV producers, ever wary of viewers flipping channels, have tried to keep the start of the show as peppy as possible -- but he also ventures a theory that is in desperate need of further explanation....

Deggans puts partial blame of the demise of the TV theme song on Frasier. He theorizes that the show "may have started the anti-theme trend by taking its own cute tune (the jazzy shuffle Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs, sung by the star, Kelsey Grammer) and sticking it at the back of the show, to play over the closing credits after the episode was done."

Okay, I'm more than happy to entertain any kind of crazy theory from a mid-market newspaper columnist -- I mean, if it wasn't for crazy theories, digg.com would be a lot less fun -- but, uh, what? How does replaying a theme song over the closing credits account for the industry-wide abandonment of a once-treasured institution? If you're going to advance a theory like this one, you need to explain why you feel that way.

Do any of you guys have a theory as to what Deggans's theory actually is? Did the double-playing of Grammer's singing get people so bored with the song that they started calling NBC and demanding that no other theme songs be added to any NBC shows ever again? Were people offended because they thought the Tossed Salad referred to in the song was the same salad tossing that Chris Rock talked about (link NSFW) in Bring the Pain? If you play Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs backwards does it say: If you want to keep viewers, you should definitely get rid of TV theme songs! And, also, if you're a Fox executive and you're listening to this song, you should definitely greenlight for me a brutally terrible sketch show once my run at Frasier ends?

Someone needs to get to the bottom of this.

[via tvtattle]

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Eric

Big Bang Theory has a nice theme song by everyone's favourite Barenaked Ladies.

January 03 2008 at 6:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
metz

I love the theme song from Bones by Crystal Method. I actually think that the networks should be promoting theme songs instead of cutting them. The reason? Ring Tones. Just think how much money they can make at $1.99 a pop if they put together a really good theme song and sell it as a ring tone. We're talking billions of mobile phones. Figure out a way to let the user interactively buy the ring tone directly from the TV (you can start with a TiVo popup ad).

January 03 2008 at 2:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
AJ

Theme songs? What the hell about opening credits?!?! Ever since LOST came out with it's zooming into the word "LOST" less and less shows have opening credits. Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy just stopped doing theirs. Brothers & Sisters never had one, neither did Pushing Daisies. 30 Rock has one, but it's a blip on the map The Office's isn't much better. Maybe it's just an ABC thing? But the last two shows I mentioned are the only network shows I watch that have credits. Of course BSG has their omonus tone over their opening credits and then Monk is the only show I watch with a theme song.

But would you look at that? The only show I watch that has a theme song is the one thats closest to a sitcom. Coincidence? I think not. The majority of the shows on that guy's list of the best theme songs are sitcoms. So I think that the death of the theme song is because of the death of the sitcom.

January 03 2008 at 2:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brandon H.

I do not think the theme song is dead. Give it awhile a really good one like "Friends" will come around. The song will make some money and those hollywood blood hounds will smell the money. Not thinking they will start pumping out theme songs agian. Lose money and cry that no one is listrening. They will stop making theme songs after that.

On a side note: I do not watch alot of T.V because of the stupid ads. The ads ruin any show and when a break happens I channel surf.

January 03 2008 at 12:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kevjohn

Umm... Benny Hill's "Yakety Sax" theme made the list? And the theme from Taxi didn't? Or Cheers, or Night Court?

January 03 2008 at 12:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
George

I remember reading an article roughly ten years ago in which some newly appointed programming exec -- and I think it was at NBC -- discussed his plan to shorten and/or do away with title sequences. Given that a typical network sitcom now routinely comes in at less than 21 minutes per episode, with closing credits squeezed to the point of illegibility, it's hardly a surprise that product placement is beginning to dominate dialog and drive plots.

On the other end of the spectrum... I remember in 2006, the BBC produced a single series of a drama called 'Sorted', about a group of postmen (much more interesting than it sounds, btw), in which the title sequence ran something like two minutes. Why? Because the theme tune was Dirty Pretty Things' "Bang Bang (You're Dead)", then fairly new, and the band's label was allegedly generous in its "support" of the production. And this was a true hour-long drama -- even without the theme, it had a full 15 minutes more content than a US show. Shame they only made one series.

January 03 2008 at 12:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kathleen Harris

Theme Songs vs. Commercials

I love theme songs, who doesn't remember, Edith and Archie singing "Those were the Days", The 3 tapping feet of My Three Sons.

As soon as any commercial comes on I automatically hit the mute button on my TV, or I watch the shows on line. I can't be the only person that does this. How effective are commercials that nobody watches?

January 03 2008 at 11:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Horse N. Buggy

It's funny, I grew up watching TV and can sing almost all the classic theme songs. I still watch just as much TV today, but virtually all of it is time shifted. So even for shows that I adore, I have literally no idea what the opening themes look or sound like. I do have a general idea of which shows come back right after the opening and which go to commercial.

The first show that I recall to really push the envelope on openings was Alias. I watched that live and I remember being blown away that sometimes the opening wouldn't happen until the 10th or 12th minute past the hour. I LOVED that. It told me that the story (action) was more important than the traditional x number of acts setup of a show. Each episode should break where it was natural to break according to the story. However, Alias did have an instrumental theme song with credits. So it was only the placement of the opening that Alias played with.

For myself, I'm much more likely to know the theme songs of shows that play in the 8:00 hour. Past that hour, the likelihood of me watching the show on my DVR increases and I NEVER watch an opening on my DVR. But even when I watch live TV, I'm highly likely to channel surf during the opening and commercial breaks.

January 03 2008 at 9:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
maestro610

If you want to point to the death of the theme song (which I am uncertain is a true event... but for arguments sake) look toward The Sopranos (which used it's theme perfectly as Tony drove through tons of Jersey landmarks) and the CSI's (which I don't watch but I know they use classic rock songs in their openings, I'd hope they line up with the theme of the shows in some way but whatever they're huge hit shows). That would be a more sensible argument than Frasier...

Tons of great shows since Frasier have had excellent themes: Arrested Development, Dead Like Me, 30 Rock, Dexter, Battlestar Galactica (which uses it's excellent theme to actually showcase the events upcoming in the episode).

I'd rather see a discussion of horrible opening title sequences. Bionic Woman and Grey's Anatomy suck any energy or watch-ability away from the teaser in every single episode... does it help that the shows aren't that spectacular anyway? I don't know. But, when shows like Dexter (sorry to use it so much but come on) and Journeyman have such fantastic opening sequences that perfectly capture their shows it's difficult to excuse.

January 03 2008 at 2:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris Shifty

Arrested Development had the throw back theme song where it would tell the viewer what the show was about.
19 seconds long.
Fox cut 1 minute for advertising, from the 22 minutes allotted for the show.

The Office, 30 Rock they all have quick openings because the networks are squeezing every second they can get. While the cable nets have more time for content.

TV shows used to be sponsored by cigarettes, times change.

I know for films, George Lucas pissed a lot of people in Hollywood 30 years ago by not having opening credits in Star Wars.

January 03 2008 at 2:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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